Still Defining Emerging Church

This particular emerging church conversation started when I took a shot of answering some questions from Steve (Christianity and Renewal Mag). It became a conversation among bloggers that has just had its snapshot taken at a blog called Emergesque yesterday. There is a whole Sunday afternoon’s worth of chasing links there, so i wont waste your time with more words. Have fun!
Do we have a definition yet?
Probably not, but we do have a more SYNOPTIC view on how the emerging church is defining itself.
You know what we really need before we can agree on a good definition? We need people from the absolute OTHER spectrum of emerging church (old/crusty/fossilized/residual/ church – we still love them very much!) to tell us how they would define us,
we need some people from disciplines other than Religion to shed light on our definition,
and then we might have something that we can give back to those who are asking us “who” or “what” we are and how that is different.
Anyway, go take a butchers.. .(a look)

In the meantime, let me fend off all those people who are desperate for that all-elusive definition of Emerging Church.
A Definition:

The Emerging Church is . . .
. . . whatever Doug Pagitt says it is.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • brad says:

    warning: rant ahead.
    you know, i wonder if it isn’t finally time for us to flush all these attempts to DEFINE “the” emerging church [singular, singular, singular] and instead to DESCRIBE it in its many forms, because there are many structural and stylistic types of emerging churches within emerging cultures [plural, plural, plural].
    not a bad idea to gain several streams of inputs on those DESCRIPTIONS, sort of like how a hologram is created through the interferences among intersecting beams of light. but as for a 2-dimensional DEFINITION … why do we even need one? huh? how does that even help advance our discussions into real-world applications?
    our questions precondition our answers, and DEFINITION isn’t the best question to ask, in my opinion as one who has sought for the past 10 years to figure out churching from a cultural interpretation perspective, as guided by biblical principles. asking for DEFINITION forces us to boil down everything to a single statement where the density crushes it flat. but if we start asking about a 3-D DESCRIPTION, we’re more likely to systems-oriented answers: cultural context, structures, scope, strategies, surface appearance, biblical imperatives, biblical options, etc. DESCRIPTION opens things up, gives possibilities.
    frankly, i think this chase after “the” DEFINITION of emerging church is an endless and ultimately toxic pursuit, while getting hold of DESCRIPTION allows us to find creative applications with substance in the real world that ain’t flatland.
    and if you’re upset with me for saying what to do but not telling how — which is a classic signpost of legalism, by the way — then keep holding on. i’m trying to finish up outlines for trainings in systems interpretation and application. my approach is based on a dozen factors that allow constructive critiques of existing strategies and models of “church,” and gives principles for understanding local cultural contexts and how to do contextualization. (only fair to give practical alternatives if we’re going to critique everything, eh?)
    end of rant.

  • Andrew says:

    brad, thanks. i think that we actually ARE describing it under the guise of a weak attempt to define it. People say the discussion has been helpful, so far, since it pulls so many many streams of thought together.
    if u see the conversation going toxic, let me know.

  • brad says:

    umm … i thought i just did …
    perhaps i was just to nice about it?
    anyway, i’m glad the discussion is helpful for some. everyone needs an entry-point into the dialog. but i just find it seeming to go nowhere but perhaps in whirlpools at best.
    and, from my outdoorsman days in Montana, I understood stagnant pools as being toxic, as with whatever water sources rush into the Dead Sea, evaporate and leave all their resources there, with no outflow. meanwhile, i keep plugging away at this silly system for cultural interpretation and contextualization. i hope that maybe someday it will guide outflows in other directions, for those who want it when their time comes for a fresh stream with a trajectory into the cultural landscape.

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